Hornets.com postgame: Raptors 96, Hornets 90

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Raptors (17-44), Hornets (35-27)

It was over when... in an attempt to cut it to a one-possession game, Marco Belinelli's three-point try misfired and was rebounded by the Raptors, who ran out the final seconds of an upset win. New Orleans opened its season-long five-game road trip in discouraging fashion, falling behind by as many as 17 points in Canada before a late rally came up short.

Hornets MVP: Jarrett Jack played like you might expect from a guy who’d been traded three months earlier by the opposition. The backup point guard had one of his best games in a New Orleans uniform, consistently driving through the Toronto defense for close-range shots. The Georgia Tech product finished with an efficient 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: New Orleans is now 1-2 since Carl Landry made his debut Friday at Minnesota, but it would be difficult to put any of the blame on the backup power forward. Landry was in vintage form Tuesday, taking it to the Raptors in the paint on a regular basis. Once again, the Hornets’ offense featured Landry in post-ups or foul line-extended isolations frequently, resulting in a 17-point performance on 8-for-10 shooting from the field. Landry and Jack helped spark the bench to one of its best outings of the season. In fact, every Hornets reserve had a positive plus-minus against the Raptors, while every starter had a negative ratio.

The buzz on… a crystallizing rotation. After long periods of time this season in which it was difficult to predict from game to game which role players might see extended time or who may get a DNP, one byproduct of the Landry trade appears to be a clearer picture of minutes distribution. Through three games with Landry in the fold, the trio of Landry, Jack and Marco Belinelli has carved out substantial roles coming off the bench. Meanwhile, Jason Smith and Quincy Pondexter have picked up the remaining spot minutes in the frontcourt and on the wing, respectively.

With Landry possibly playing in the range of 25 to 30 minutes per game – along with David West and Emeka Okafor perhaps logging in the vicinity of 32 to 35 minutes each night – that means somewhere around 95 frontcourt minutes are going to those three reliable players. That doesn’t leave much PT for the other bigs on the roster. As a result, Aaron Gray and David Andersen in particular have experienced reduced playing time. There haven't been enough games to fairly evaluate the impact of this altered rotation, but settling on a common group often benefits a basketball team’s chemistry, because players have a clearer picture of their roles and can get more familiar with specific teammates. When players are constantly being shuffled in and out of the lineup, it’s much more difficult to do that.

Blog question of the night: With only 20 games remaining in the regular season, how many victories do you think the Hornets will need to finish with in order to qualify for the Western Conference playoffs?